farmer1The White House on Thursday moved to suspend agricultural trade benefits to South Africa over an unresolved poultry flap.

U.S. trade officials said that if South Africa doesn’t make a concerted effort to eliminate barriers to poultry, pork and beef exports the nation could lose its trading advantages under the recently renewed African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

“We are disappointed that South Africa has yet to resolve these issues,” said U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

“We do not take this decision lightly, and, in fact, have been working hard over many months — indeed years — to help South Africa avoid such action.”

While the problems persist, the 60-day notice gives South Africa an opportunity to make the needed progress.

“We have, however, seen some important engagement by South Africa in recent days and remain hopeful that it will meet the mutually agreed benchmarks relating to eliminating barriers to U.S. poultry, pork and beef to avoid a suspension of AGOA benefits,” Froman said.

The move is backed by Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue along with Delaware Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons.

“It is unfortunate that this action must be taken, but South Africa has repeatedly failed to implement the deal reached this summer and missed a key deadline last month to finalize the trade protocol and health certificate for U.S. poultry,” the senators said in a joint statement.

“South Africa does not deserve to receive benefits under AGOA as long as they refuse to drop unfair trade policies that have effectively slammed the door on American chicken imports for over a decade.”

The United States and South Africa reached a deal in June that would eliminate the 100 percent tariff on poultry put into place 15 years ago that has almost completely blocked U.S chicken exports.

“There is still time to address these issues, and we hope the president’s action today spurs South Africa to open their market to American poultry immediately,” the senators said.

Since the settlement was reached, South Africa has been slow to fulfill the obligations, including the commitment to resolve sanitary barriers needed for implementation.

South Africa failed to meet a key deadline on Oct. 15 that was supposed to lead to the resumption of U.S. poultry exports.

The senators say that despite assurances by high-ranking South African officials that a resolution was imminent, the issues remain unresolved.

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